I always used to be a little nervous about asking for help in a bookstore. Surely the booksellers didn’t want to have to talk to me about what kind of book I was looking for, right? Don’t they have important bookseller things to do? But now I’m on the other side of that coin: I’m a bookseller and the best part of my day is when someone asks me to help them find exactly the book they want to read right now. I get to learn a little bit about the people in the store and then I get to talk about books with them until we find the perfect fit. What could be better?
One of the fun ways that my job has grown in the last few months is I’ve gotten a chance to curate the children’s subscription boxes for our store. Each month I get to pick out my very favorites, the books I’d press into customer’s hands, but to make it more fun we pop the books in the mail, so it feels like I get to send dozens of presents a month! Indie booksellers spend a ton of energy matching the just-right book to the just-right person, and subscription boxes let them send their favorite books to an unlimited number of just-right people. How great is that?
I thought it would be fun to put together a list of independent bookstore subscription boxes to let indie booksellers across the country share the joy. To let them really shine, I’m highlighting some more specific subscriptions. These subscriptions are for people who are looking for a book from a certain genre or certain type of book, so if you’re looking for just small-press books or maybe just mysteries, read on and let a bookseller find a just-right book for you!
The Book Drop in Selbyville, Delaware, offers several subscription boxes, but the one that caught my eye is called “Books for Coffee.” These are the books that will keep you up all night: action-packed thrillers and mysteries. They also offer “Books for Tea” (historical fiction and lit fic) and “Books for Bubbly” (romance and chick lit), as well as age-specific subscriptions for kids. Books for Coffee is $16.50 a month. It seems to be available for as few as one month at a time, but it automatically renews until you cancel.
Want something a little off the beaten reading path? Literati Bookstore offers Insisto, a subscription that includes only books from independent publishers. As the big publishers consolidate, it feels even more urgent to support small, independent publishers. Independent publishers are less likely to be based out of the same big city as everyone else, so they have a different perspective than other publishers. They’re also more likely to give great writers who might not have a giant platform a chance. Insisto brings those diverse voices to your doorstep. You might receive fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry, and the curator puts an emphasis on works in translation. The subscription is $16–19 a month, or you can choose a 3-month subscription ($70), a 6-month subscription ($140), or an entire year’s subscription ($280).
Want the ultimate in customized book subscription boxes? Politics & Prose does a fantastic job of recreating the experience of wandering into a bookstore and asking a bookseller for something new and wonderful to read. Fill out a brief form with some information about your favorite books, writers, and hobbies, and they’ll send you specially curated books just for you. The program costs the price of your book plus the cost of shipping. They also have a program for kids!
Maybe it’s not hard to find a mystery book subscription, but I’ve never seen anyone break down what a “mystery book” can be on such a granular level! Mysterious Bookshop has subscriptions for British Crime Collectors, Thriller & Espionage readers, Hardboiled & Noir readers, and more! Their book subscriptions start at $99 for three months, then $198 for six months, and $396 for twelve months.
Prairie Path lets adults choose from one of several categories each month, so you can always pick the book that sounds like what you want to read right now. They offer the store owner’s picks, lesser known books, literary fiction, nonfiction, and one that seems unique among subscription boxes: “Pleasing Reads,” which the website describes as “books for those who long to close a book and shout ‘I loved it!’…Warm hearts guaranteed.” Prairie Path Book Boxes are $199 for six months. (Full disclosure: I work for Prairie Path, but I don’t curate the adult boxes…just the ones for kids!)
BlackLIT doesn’t seem to have a storefront; they operate exclusively as a subscription service. I was so excited to include them, for a few reasons! Each month, their boxes include a book written by a person of color as well as 3–5 products from Black-owned businesses. Their categories include “fiction,” “nonfiction”, and “believers.” They’re the only faith-based subscription box I found in my research, so that’s the category I chose to highlight. The Believers boxes is for people who want to read books that challenge them, strengthen their faith, and change their life. The Believers box starts at $39.99 a month.
The Ripped Bodice might be the best-known romance bookstore in the world, and they’re launching a new subscription box in January 2021! Get two recently released romance novels with a “nifty trinket” like a candle or keychain each month. An ongoing, per month subscription is $40, a 6-month subscription prepaid is $216, and a 12-month subscription prepaid is $408.
Do dog-eared pages make you shudder? Lemuria’s First Editions Clubs might be for you. Lemuria’s book clubs have an emphasis on preserving the pristine condition of a new book, so each book comes with an archival mylar cover, and is packed to ship in butcher paper. The cost of each book is the list price of the book plus $5 shipping.
Want to escape some of the realities of the world? Or at least have them explained back to you through, say, a robot overlord or some elves? Maybe both! The Strand will pick out a signed hardcover for you and they’ll include some fun trinkets from their store, too! Boxes ship in March, June, September, or December by the end of the month, and cost $50 per box. Choose a single box, a one-year subscription (four boxes) or a recurring subscription. They also offer boxes in other genres including Classics, Feminism, and Political Nonfiction at various price levels.